The pitching market rumors continue to sizzle as the winter meetings are drawing ever closer. The upstart Chicago Cubs already added to their rotation by adding veteran John Lackey. They are now reportedly “actively” exploring a trade for one of the game’s top closers to strengthen their bullpen as reported by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.
The Cubs had a decent bullpen last year. They swung a couple of midseason deals, signing free agents and making trades to strengthen their bullpen as the year went on and their quest for a postseason spot became more of a reality than a pipedream.
Chicago is now seeking to strengthen the bullpen by adding an established closer. The Cubs have received plenty of production from current closer Héctor Rondon, as he has compiled 59 saves over the past two seasons across 163.1 innings of relief. The Cubs clearly want to give him more support as the backend of their bullpen still seems a little suspect as they only have two reliable late-inning relievers in Rondon and righty Pedro Strop. Adding a top-end closer could give them a dominant late-inning trio to close out games for the next season. The Cubs do have a plethora of young MLB-ready talent to dangle in trades.
The top closers reportedly available on the trade market are Ken Giles, Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, Mark Melancon, Jake McGee and Brad Boxberger. Miller is unlikely to be dealt by the New York Yankees due the immense value he has brought to the team by taking over the closer role. Chapman and Melancon are both likely to be dealt, despite both currently playing on NL Central division rivals. The Reds would be more likely than the Pirates to make a deal with a division playmate, as the 2016 season means very little in the grand scheme of things. The Tampa Bay Rays may not be in a rush to deal McGee or Boxberger due to their aim to contend next season in the AL East. Giles may be the most easily attainable as the Philadelphia Phillies are in the midst of a rebuild, and dealing a top closer like Giles could bring back some nice young pieces for the Phillies to build around.
Look for the Cubs to be active in the relief market as the winter meetings begin. The Cubs are the type of team who will be contending in 2016, and should not wait around until the trade deadline to acquire a closer. Waiting as the other top names will also drive up the cost of the names left on the block. If the Cubs are serious about getting a closer, they need to make a deal happen sooner rather than later.